Starting Pitcher Velocity
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Reasons I can think of for this occurring:
- Teams want their pitchers with higher velocity to pitch more often and refrain from converting them to relievers.
- Starters are being trained to pitch all out for shorter outings rather than trying to dialing down to last the entire game.
- More hard throwers are available.
- Fastball velocity is being valued more and baseball is able to out recruit other sports for these prospects.
- Teams are more willing to convert hard throwing outfielders, middle infielders, and catchers to pitching.
Relief Pitcher Velocity
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The number of pitchers capable for throwing hard has increased over time. It does not readily appear that hard throwing reliever are being converted to starting pitching as the increase is apparent in both groups. This leaves me thinking that there are simply more hard throwing arms available. This could be due to natural progression or it may be an element of pitching that is now being emphasized to greater degree. I have talked to a few scouts who angrily mention how pitching velocity is becoming valued too much because it is a quantitative measure on pitching prospects that cannot be embellished and that qualitative measures are being relied on to a lesser degree. I am not so sure I believe that, but it is an explanation that should be floated out there.
My personal belief is that hard throwing arms are being more heavily sought after. Teams are willing to pay extra to draft prospects who show plus velocity over pitchers who perform well due to a polished approach. In an earlier post, I showed in an awfully noisy graph that a mile per hour in velocity saves half a run over the course of 100 fastballs. That is the difference between a pitcher giving up 6 runs over 12 innings vs 5 runs over 12 innings. In terms of ERA, that means a 4.50 ERA would decrease to 3.75 ERA. Certainly more is involved than simply velocity, but it certainly is a trait of a pitcher that is quite important. It may be that other teams simply are valuing this more and are better at finding and getting these arms to the majors. In other words, perhaps more athletic players with live arms are giving more consideration on the mound than trying to make their skills work in the field.
Perhaps more likely, competition is simply rising in baseball. As it pretty much always has. Players get stronger and the training improves over time.